William Langewiesche's life has been deeply intertwined with the idea and act of flying. Fifty years ago his father, a test pilot, wrote Stick and Rudder, a text still considered by many to be the bible of aerial navigation. Langewiesche himself learned to fly while still a child. Now he shares his pilot's-eye view of flight with those of us who take flight for granted--exploring the inner world of a sky that remains as exotic and revealing as the most foreign destination.
Langewiesche tells us how flight happens--what the pilot sees, thinks, and feels. His description is not merely about speed and conquest. It takes the form of a deliberate climb, leading at low altitude first over a new view of a home, and then higher, into the solitude of the cockpit, through violent storms and ocean nights, and on to unexpected places in the mind.
In Langewiesche's hands it becomes clear, at the close of this first century of flight, how profoundly our vision has been altered by our liberation from the ground. And we understand how, when we look around, we may find ourselves reflected in the grace and turbulence of a human sky.
From Chapter One
The View from Above
After a century of flying, we still live at a moment of emergence like that experienced by creatures first escaping from the sea. For us the emergence has been given meaning because we can think about it, and can perhaps understand the nature of our liberation. Mechanical wings allow us to fly, but it is with our minds that we make the sky ours. The old measures of distance no longer apply, in part because we hop across the globe in single sittings, but also because in doing so we visit a place which even just above our homes is as exotic and revealing as the most foreign destination. This book is a travel book about that place, and it takes the form of a spiral climb. At the end it will arrive overhead of the point where now it begins, with the idea that flight's greatest gift is to let us look around.
At first I mean a simple form of looking around, and one that requires little instruction--just gazing down at the ordinary scenery ...
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